Friday, 25 January 2013

Diytao #8, vlog: Fixing with Sugru


After a long while I made a new video of fixing things. This time it's about using Sugru and paper clip to repair the broken zipper of the winter shoe.
Onward with video..

Video #8

As a side note, I tried to make a new intro video. But I have to admit I'm not sure if it's a good or not. Feedback is well appreciated. And, yes, no money was harmed on shooting. ;-)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Xmas present from Digi-Key, #digi-wish

Pickit 3 package
During Christmas 2013 season the Digi-key run a Digi-Wish competition which I took part. And as amazing it seems to be, I happened to win. I asked for either a FPGA-devkit or Pickit 3 demo kit and I got the latter one.

So, here are some pictures of the packet and the content. This bundle was delivered by DHL some days ago.

Naked Pickit 3 and devboard
Pickit 3 comes bundled with the nice looking Pic18 demo board and red usb-cable. The included Mplab programming environment CD apparently contains version 8 of the software, which I don't really need since I have for some time ago downloaded the latest version Mplab-X from Microchip site. 
Comparison shot Pickit2 vs Pickit3

As seen from the pictures I also took the Pickit 3 apart immediately and compared it to my old Pickit 2, looks like they have done quite a bit changes between product version.

The Pickit 2 uses an Pic18F2550 micro controller, that is on higher end amongst 8 bit Pic chips.

While the Pickit 3 has 24FJ256GB106, which is 16 bit micro controller with USB OTG port in it. There are also a lot of unused pins and peripherals at the Pickkit 3 controller, so I have to wonder didn't they find any simpler/smaller chip for this version of programmer.

Pic18 demo board
The demo board that came alongside Pickit 3 looks real good, with smooth gold finish and black solder mask. I have not yet any project for this, but I'll need to check the  Pic18F45K20 datasheets and see what this particular chip can do. So far I have only used those low end Pic16 series on all my projects and I'm quite sure there will be some differences.

I also did record video of the unboxing and Pickit 3 tear down/review. I will add the link here as soon as I have edited and uploaded it to Youtube.

Edit.. The viedeo quality was so bad (flickering etc.) that I decided not to make it public. I have no idea what happened... But the material was more/less ruined. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Review: Cheap and broken.. Multimeter test leads

Often, it's been said that cheap products can't be good. Well, sometimes they do work and fulfil the need, sometimes the product simply don't cut it. A world of wisdom amongst electronic hobbyists is that one should never connect/use anything that's been purchased from various 'chinaimports' without at least opening and examining it first.

And here's a good basic example of total lack of manufacturer QC, even though the multimeter leads should be a simple item. It' still too difficult to make them right at the first take. Behold, the 2.5$ multimeter test leads:
Always open and check before using, their QC just ain't.

For the picture I have opened both ends of the red wire. As far as parts go, these test leads are well within the expected quality for 2.5$ price. Nothing fancy, alligator clips feel ok and the banana plugs are half decent.

Unfortunately the wire connections leave a lot to comment. The alligator clip side is almost ok, I'd would like to see some solder added, since the bare metals tend to oxidise and lose contact soon. Banana plugs are worse, though. The red cable had essentially no contact at all, the screw did not touch the copper wire at all, essentially it was just gripping the insulator.

Secondary problem is the open end of the screw, as seen on black banana jack. This leads high risk of getting electrocuted due direct contact to metallic parts.Note though, that I would not ever recommend to use this kind cheap and thin wires to any high voltage measurements, but just in case someone accidentally does it..

To fix these, I'll need to re-make all connections and insulate the banana plugs so the screws can't be touched accidently. All in all, this is not a biggie for someone knowing electronics, but in the end there may well be a lot people who don't have the necessary talent and skill to repair these shoddy products.

PS: Just in case you'll got irresistible urge to get one of these, here's the link to these test leads . I did try to leave critical feedback concerning the QC and safety of the product, but it was not accepted. Ah well, can't please em all the time, my positive remarks of other goodies have been accepted though, so it can't be my English...